News Worth Noting: Californians reduce water use by 24.3% in March; Environmental Defense Fund recommends policy reforms for California water market

Strong Statewide Conservation Effort in March; Water-Saving Habits Aid in 24.3 Percent Reduction

Revisions to Conservation Regulation expected at May 18 Board Meeting

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsCalifornians sharpened their water saving efforts in March, conserving 24.3 percent compared to the amount used in March 2013 – double February’s savings and evidence that residents and businesses remain concerned about the persistent drought now in its fifth year. Statewide cumulative savings from June 2015 to March 2016 totaled 23.9 percent compared with the same months in 2013.

“While some parts of the state saw rain and snow, other parts, specifically the Central Valley and Southern California, didn’t; and yet, all Californians stepped up again to conserve water, because they know they can and that it is good for California,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Twenty-four percent in March is a stunningly welcome number. As we head into the warmer summer months, we need to keep conserving. We may not need the same levels of conservation as last year, but we still need to keep all we can in our reservoirs and groundwater basins in case this winter is
just a punctuation mark in a longer drought.”

With nearly 1.3 million acre-feet of water conserved from June 2015 through March 2016, the state continues to save an impressive amount of water. The March data show a strong start following renewed emergency water conservation regulations adopted by the Board on Feb. 2.  A recent Field Poll indicates that a majority of California residents characterize the ongoing drought as “extremely serious,” with three quarters of those polled committed to ongoing water conservation.

Statewide, the conservation rate doubled from 12 percent in February to 24.3 percent in March, likely due to wetter weather and more seasonal temperatures, along with awareness that drought conditions could outlast existing water supplies.

A staff proposal that may offer revisions to the Feb. 2 emergency water conservation regulations is expected soon, following review of written and oral comments from a public workshop on April 20 to receive input on conservation needs through the summer and fall. The workshop was conducted to solicit ideas for adjustments to the current emergency regulations given changes in water supply, storage, and snowpack as compared to last year’s historic statewide deficiencies. This staff proposal will be considered by the Board for comment and adoption on May 18.

“It’s not time yet for a drought’s over party.  That said, March brought us much needed rain and snow—still less than average but huge compared to the worst in 500 years, which is where we were last year,” Chair Marcus said. “We’ve gotten a bit of a reprieve, but not a hall pass.  Now we are figuring out how to appropriately adjust to a better but not ideal situation.”

Until the Board acts in May, residents are urged to continue applying their water conservation skills and habits through the spring months to include complying with urban water supplier directives on when outdoor irrigation is permitted, not irrigating outdoors during and within 48 hours following a rain event, and fixing leaks that are discovered during individual water user audits.

An updated and extended emergency regulation was adopted by the Board on Feb. 2, with most revisions taking effect for the March reporting period. The regulation extends restrictions on urban water use through October while providing urban water suppliers some latitude in their conservation requirements. The action follows Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Nov. 13, 2015, Executive Order directing the State Water Board to extend the emergency water conservation regulation through Oct. 31, 2016 should drought conditions persist. Any changes made by the Board May 18, would be anticipated to take effect in June, and remain in effect through Oct. 31, 2016.

March Conservation Data

  • Cumulative statewide percent reduction for June 2015 – March 2016 (ten months) is 23.9 percent, which equates to 1,295,703 acre-feet (422.2 billion gallons).
  • Statewide water savings for March 2016 was 24.3 percent (107,468 acre feet or 35.0 billion gallons), more than double February 2016’s 12.0 percent savings rate.  See fact sheet here.
  • Associated with higher monthly savings, and due to the adjustments and credits included in the extended emergency regulation, March 2016 saw an increased level of compliance with 71 percent of suppliers meeting their conservation standards
  • Statewide average water use was 66 residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD) for March 2016, which was lower than 67 R-GPCD in February 2016 and 82.5 R-GPCD in March 2015.
Continue reading at the State Water Resources Control Board by clicking here.

EDF Recommends Policy Reforms for California Water Market

Reforms can help ecosystems and poor communities weather the drought, report says

From the Environmental Defense Fund:

EDF_tm_CMYKEnvironmental Defense Fund today released a set of policy recommendations for reforming California’s water market to help alleviate the drought’s impact on the environment and make the state’s cities and rural communities more resilient to climate change.

“We envision a future where California’s water management system provides incentives for meeting human needs while benefitting nature instead of harming it,” said David Festa, EDF senior vice president of the Ecosystems Program. “When designed well and harnessed by the right rules, the market can drive positive results on several fronts: better access to water, a healthier environment and prosperous communities.”

Although California has a water market, it is burdened by patchwork regulations that discourage transfers and routinely benefit only well-capitalized water users. As a result, water users with fewer resources – such as small farmers, the environment and disadvantaged communities in the Central Valley – have suffered disproportionately.

EDF’s report analyzes California’s current water market and proposes several, specific reforms that can benefit all water users without altering the existing water rights system. The reforms are designed to drive five key outcomes.

  • Improve market transparency by, among other things, standardizing and publicly disclosing supporting data for all transfers.
  • Decrease transaction costs and eliminate barriers to participation by, among other things, establishing a new entity to coordinate the approval process and develop a centralized exchange platform.
  • Ensure benefits to disadvantaged communities and the environment by incorporating incentive mechanisms into the market.
  • Free up more water for sharing by expediting transfers that achieve water savings.
  • Reduce pressure on overstressed aquifers by integrating markets into implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“Water sharing doesn’t create a new supply of water – rather it encourages conservation and allows more of the finite resource to move to higher value uses,” said Festa. “By getting water markets right, the state can allocate water more quickly and cost-effectively than alternative sources like water recycling or seawater desalination – and that’s good for the natural systems that sustain us all.”

Click here to read the report.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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